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Kirtan Satsang at Birmingham Yoga

On the first Wednesday night of each month a very special gathering takes place at the Birmingham Yoga studio in Forest Park: Kirtan Satsang, led by the beautiful and talented local yogis Shannon Skipper and Jasper Wolfe. (See for directions.)

But what does this mean?

For starters, Kirtan is the devotional call and response type of worship of the Divine. This is done in song with the freedom to follow along echoing what Shannon sings first while shaking a rattle or drumming on whatever is available or clapping the hands, but it’s not necessary. The word Satsang has to do with truth. It’s gathering together in the presence of a guru or teacher and coming up with the truth (or something like that). So essentially, Kirtan Satsang is a gathering of folks who, in search of their own truth in relationship with the Divine, like to sing and just be in the presence of their own best teacher: the highest self.
In Indian philosophy, there may be more stringent rules to this worship, but for those who are drawn to the Birmingham monthly gatherings, it’s all about basking in the positive energy that is generated when singing from the heart while being gently led by the lovelies in charge.

It goes something like this: Everyone comes into the space greeting each other with loving embraces, introducing those who are new, getting a seat in a circle on the floor while Shannon and Jasper unload the basket of various noise makers. The group joins together to get situated in the energy and are asked to allow all things outside the room to fall away and to become present in the energy of the evening. Here there’s an invocation of the Divine to move freely among the group and for each person to look at his or her own inner teacher for cues about peace and stillness. There’s then the call for the centering “Om” which is optional, as always. Special attention is brought to the flow or lack of flow of energy within as the singing begins. Cheat sheets are handed out for those who are new to the singing or who haven’t caught on to the words that are not in English.

As everyone looks at the pages, requests are invited. Inevitably someone speaks up and the session begins.

Now, it’s important here to state again that yoga is about the uniting or yoking of mind, body, spirit and/or self with the Divine. And then Bhakti yoga is devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the Divine. So essentially, this is a gathering of devotees not in any sort of worship of a human teacher, but in union with the Divine and in the search for truth, which can only truly be found experientially. (Not everyone will give these definitions; this is the interpretation of Laurie M. Knight and her experiences alone.)

A person can go here and get the feel for a loving campfire-type experience where he or she takes away a warm, “That was nice” sort of mood. But more importantly, a person can go so deep inside of the experience within while in the safe circle of Divine energy and feel something inside them stir or settle. This is no different from what churches offer with an “altar call” except here, there’s no leader asking anyone to make anything public; the truth within a person is truly his/her own relationship with whatever it is he or she believes or understands as Divine. A Christian can join the group and insert Jesus’s name and have a renewed sense of commitment, just as a Jew, a Hindu, or a Muslim could insert their appropriate deity’s name and have the same effect. No special rules and books need to be followed; no doctrine or dogma studied, just truth from within.

This sort of union is what makes yoga unique and transcendent, yet inclusive, of all religions. No one is concerned with the name of the deity or the school of thought or the philosophy; it’s all about the undeniable energy that surrounds all people and is ever present at all times. It’s all about the Universal Life Force Energy that permeates within and without, above and below, consistently and without fail, forever and ever.

At the end of a song, the special moment of silence is in order for each person to feel the Universal Energy that pulsates within after such devotion. That’s the best part by far! In a circle, members sit reverently with eyes closed or cast downward, focusing within as they reflect upon and examine the pulsating of the Divine as it rushes through the body and emanates outward.

After the pause to reflect, it’s time to start another song. Some of these are in English where specific reverence is given to the Creator or God or Mother Earth or Goddess or the moon or the sun. Many are in Sanskrit or Gurmukhi as most of these are derived from the Indian philosophy. The way I understand this is that each of the syllables and pronunciations of the alphabet activate energy channels that run throughout the body. It is believed that we have 72,000 of these channels and meridians, and through proper repetition of mantras or of certain sounds and syllables (seed syllables) there is an activation of the meridians that connect to the energy centers, which correspond to the physical health of the brain and the body, from the lymphatic system to the endocrine, from the digestive systems to the cellular structure of the body. When a person actively and intentionally participates in such activity with the express purpose of activating the energy centers (chakras), amazing health and vitality can be achieved. Essentially this activity increases the vibrational levels of the energy within the human body to match that Universal Life Force Energy that is all around us, and voila! Oneness is experienced.

It’s really that simple.

If uttering syllables in another language is off-putting, energy vibration can still be increased and uplifted by simply being in the presence of those vibrating at those enhanced levels. Come try it!


Sat Nam.

It’s Wednesday night, August 1, 7:30-9 at Birmingham Yoga (first Wednesday of each month). It’s free but donations are accepted and appreciated!

Laurie M. Knight is a local energy worker who has a special affinity for death and dying. She holds spiritual journaling classes at Natural Forces Studio each Wednesday from 11:30-1 for $15 per class. Her new business is Healing CenterEd and would love to figure out how to make money while acting as a midwife to those who are transitioning from this physical existence. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome!


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